Afternoon SoJo: Round-up of the Best Op-Eds of the Day

By Duane Shank 10-21-2011


The Occupy Wall Street movement continues to preoccupy the imaginations of editorial writers around the country.

Clarence Page in the Chicago Tribune thinks that "a lack of formal leaders, agenda and structure can work to a young movement's advantage," and notes that "one sign spotted in a New York protest put it, 'We're here, we're unclear, get used to it!'" The important thing about the movement is that, "The Occupiers don't have all the answers, but they can help the rest of us raise the right questions."

Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald is concerned. He "hopes the movement's organizers understand that Occupy Wall Street has created a moment, a fragment of time and potentiality in which it may be possible to make real, fundamental, systemic change." His advice: "The Occupy movement commands the attention of the entire world. When you have all eyes upon you, your next move should be obvious. Say something."

Politically speaking, Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times finds it "remarkable, though, is how anxious the Obama campaign appears to be to get on the protesters' good side." And he thinks it's just beginning, "as 2012 approaches, he's not likely to grab a sleeping bag and head for a park. But he's hoping to convince the occupiers - and the much larger number of Americans who share their anger - that a part of him would like to."

On the other hand, Michael Gerson of the Washington Post remembers the history of the Democratic party tying itself too closely to the 1960s antiwar counter-culture and warns that, "No presidential campaign would willingly choose the high-risk strategy of identifying with a controversial, half-formed, leftist protest. But unable to take credit for economic recovery, Obama may have no other choice. He needs an economic dragon to slay, even if he once fed and tended it."

E.J. Dionne Jr. of the Washington Post takes another slice of history in the example of Abraham Lincoln, who, despite being a political moderate, identified with the abolitionists. Occupy Wall Street is changing the conversation on economic inequality as the abolitionists did on slavery. While not directly comparing the two men or causes, Dionne concludes that, "Lincoln remained a moderate at heart, but he abandoned moderation on slavery when this proved to be morally and politically unsuited to the imperatives of his moment. By following Lincoln's example and acting against the injustices of our time, Obama could also come to occupy the high ground."

Finally, Lisa Miller, also of the Washington Post, takes a look at the Jesus of history. "Born with little means into a first-century world, the historical Jesus might feel right at home with the very aspects of the occupation that so many 21st-century observers consider gross: the tents, the damp sleeping bags, the communal kitchen." And while noting the grab-bag of people who comprise the Occupiers, she concludes, "The Jesus of history would love them all. What Jesus really said, and what he meant, are the subjects of culture's greatest controversies, but one thing is sure. Jesus gave preferential treatment to society's outcasts."

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